Archive for September, 2015

Blackpaint 512 – Walker Gallery, Pasolini, Andrei and two Enricos

September 20, 2015

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Excellent collections, notably of previous John Moores winners; the Roger Hilton is still the best for my money, but then I’m a fleabitten retro.

hilton moores


Other treasures, ancient and modern, below:

Gillian Ayres, Aeolus

gillian ayres aeolus

Fantastic; texture, colour, control – but not too much…

Allen Jones, Hermaphrodite

allen jones hermaphrodite

This Jones reminded me of the Chagall below, which is in the Pompidou Centre collection.  Not a serious comparison, just the panel shape and the shape of the images, somehow…


chagall pomp


Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I


Hilliard is known as a miniaturist, of course, but this is full size.  It’s still has that jewel-like intensity of the miniatures.



These “two pictures” in the Roscoe Collection were bought separately but were part of the same altarpiece (see pattern on dress).

Nostalgia, Tarkovsky

domiziana giordano

Poor Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano, above); she’s desperate to sleep with Andrei, the Russian poet she is translating for, but he, understandably, is more interested in the mentally ill man who is trying to save the world by walking through the water of a spa baths with a lighted candle.  The ending is still harrowing, as Domenico (the mad man) sets fire to himself and crawls, screaming, in flames, through the Roman square.  The very last scene has the poet in a Russian(?) landscape with horses, his family and that of Domenico’s looking on in silence – the whole landscape enclosed by the cloistering walls of a gigantic abbey.  Stunning, but what does it mean? Something mystical, probably, but what does it matter?

Pasolini, Abel Ferrara 

Not really a biopic, this is concerned with the period leading up to Pasolini’s murder in a seaside carpark in 1975, beaten and run over with his own car – opportunistic, homophobic or political (inevitable conspiracy theories).  It should be said, though of no interest to me, that there’s some spectacular close-up oral sex (male on rent boy) and more sex in a fantasy sequence from the film that Pasolini never got made; beautiful lesbians and gays copulating in a one-night-only festival to “propagate the species”; spectacular sex, spectacular fireworks.

William Dafoe is made for the part and brings his usual intensity (today’s word) to the role – but not much is made of the director’s  rather interesting politics.  I understand that Pasolini, a Marxist, was unusual – unique? – among European left intellectuals in NOT supporting the student movement in 1968; he saw the students as bourgeois and the police fighting them as members of the working class.  There is some socio-political chat, not terribly clear , and some spectacular images, notably of the Fascist building and statuary in Rome, the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana.

fascist palace

Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger, 1969

Bought the DVD for relief from Tarkovsky, put it on late Friday night and forced myself to turn it off at 2.00am.  Then hadto start it again last night and watch it straight through.  Voigt and Dustin Hoffman are brilliant of course, and Sylvia Miles and Brenda Vaccaro – I love the switching from colour to sepia –  although not new, maybe it was in Hollywood.  Voigt’s buckskin jacket getting greasier as he walks the mean streets, Enrico’s filthy apartment. the sweat on his feverish face as he lights yet another butt.  Then, just for a second, I thought I saw Bob Odenkirk’s  Saul in Hoffman.  I don’t know, really.

midnight Cowboy


The other Enrico.  I’ve got a collection of his singles on cassette – most of them recorded over 100 years ago!  Fantastic, creaky orchestras, crackly, dramatic delivery, sobbing, soaring, sometimes surprisingly sweet – “Vesti la Giubba”,  “E lucevan le stelle”, Handel’s Largo. Brings tears to the eyes, still.

Grongar Hill

I love these lines from Dyer’s “Grongar Hill” ; similar sentiment to Shelley’s “Ozymandias”:

“A little Rule, little Sway,

A Sun-beam in a Winter’s day

Is all the Proud and Mighty have,

Between the Cradle and the Grave.”

RIP Brian.


Work Still in Progress







Blackpaint 511 – Pollock, Fury and One-Note Plinky

September 14, 2015

Jackson Pollock, Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool)

This is a great little exhibition – about fifty pictures? – mostly from 1951 – 55, when his best stuff was supposed to have been done and decline set in.  There are a few drip paintings from 1947-9, by way of context; staggering delicacy and intricacy in the twining of the coloured skeins, rendering laughable the comment in the Telegraph Review section that there is “more to Pollock than flinging paint violently onto canvas”, as if that is what he had ever done.

The large drip painting, although beautiful, does remind you (or me, anyway)of a Formica table top from the fifties.  It’s the size, shape and the continuation of the pattern on the edges (because he did them on unprimed canvas on the floor and stretched them on supports afterwards).

Some favourites below:

pollock no 8 1952  

No.8, 1952

This one strongly reminiscent of Asger Jorn – I’m thinking “Letter to my Son” (Tate Modern).  It’s the little heads swimming about.

pollock no14 1951

No.14, 1951

Is that a chameleon, stepping through the undergrowth? Probably not…


Pollock no 12 1952

No.12, 1952

The big colourful one that Frank O’ Hara called a great “gigolo of a picture”.

As well as Jorn, you can see Picasso here and there.  There are a couple of sets of prints, which I think  conflict a little with Pollock’s spontaneous ethic; not just a driven genius then, a bit of business acumen there.  A bit like De Kooning, deciding to “harvest” the newspaper sheets he placed on his paintings in the 60s, to keep the paint from drying too quickly; shift them a little to smear the image and you have a “Monoprint” that can be signed and sold, instead of chucked away.

Constellations, Tate Liverpool

The paintings in this collection are arranged in “constellations”, which ignore chronology and geography and bounce off each other in some not always apparent fashion.  Fine, if you know plenty already but not helpful if you want a more art-historical approach.  I realise this sounds like the eternally carping Jonathan Jones, but in this respect, he has a point.  Some highlights below:

gaudier brjeska

Henri Gaudier Brjeska


dieter roth

Dieter Roth – I think it goes this way round.


bonnard window

Pierre Bonnard


Michelangelo Pistoletto

What’s she feeling for there?  Rather like my partner’s side of the bed.

Billy Fury

billy fury

Superb statue, by Tom Murphy,  of the great singer on the Albert Dock; the stance and the profile are perfect – I missed that lop-sided sneer/smile he used to do, though.  “So near, yet so far away”..

Carver and Kidman 

A very tenuous connection – rather like Constellations – here: I’d just been reading the Raymond Carver story about the boy who is run over on his birthday and slips into a coma, when Nicole appeared on TV in a film called “Rabbit Hole” – in which her son has been run over, chasing his dog across a road.  The film is actually about his parents “coming to terms” and it employs that awful, universal, plink-plunk sequence of slow, single piano notes to signify melancholy – I think I’ve actually heard it in news bulletins, behind “special reports” by journalists “on the spot”.  Thank goodness for the likes of Carver and Cheever and Wolff ; you couldn’t do one-note plinky behind films of their stories (I can think of three, “the Swimmer”, “Short Cuts” and “Jindabyne”).

Jodorowsky, Santa Sangre

Mexico, circus, clowns, knife-throwers, women wrestlers, ecstatic religion… arms chopped off, throats cut, murder by throwing knife and samurai sword, acid flung on genitals…the funeral of an elephant, the resurrection of a host of murdered “brides”…and it manages to be sentimental too, with an accompaniment of emotive Mexican song.  Possibly some one-note plinky, even.

sidelined WIP

Work in “Progress”






Blackpaint 510 – Jodorowsky’s Dad, Albertine’s Trials, Captain Lee’s Toes

September 4, 2015

Dance of Reality, Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013) at the ICA


A sort of fictional, magical realist biography of his father, set in a mining town in Chile.  Greek theatre – style masks on extras, his mother – huge breasts, low -cut dress – sings all her dialogue, opera style.  The film has a Technicolor feel; there are clowns, dwarves, rioting amputees (casualties from the mines); scenes of:

  • bullying and violence against a child (the Jodorowsky character);
  • forced sex between his parents;
  • mother urinating on father, to cure him of disease;
  • suicides by shooting and hanging;
  • mother and son, both naked, blacking each other up with shoe polish (don’t ask);
  • a live burial;
  • police attacking and beating amputee miners;
  • graphic torture scenes – hanging by the arms, electrical prongs attached to genitals.

All this and more, but the film was light, funny and – embarrassing term – uplifting at the end.  Obvious Fellini influence and similarities to Angelopoulos (departure on raft at the end).  The light is so different from the Greek films though; denser, thicker somehow.

The story is basically the trials of Jodo’s bullying, ultra-macho, Stalinist father; his “journey” from this authoritarianism to the acquisition of humanity and gentleness.  Brilliant film.

Little Pictures at Tate Britain

I thought I’d highlight some of the smaller paintings in the current display; the ones that glow at you across the galleries, overshadowed in many cases by huge narrative Victorian efforts.  No further comment required, I think.

tate b ludgate

Ludgate Circus, Jacques – Emile Blanche


tate b holman hunt

Cornfield at Ewell, Holman Hunt

tate b ford madox brown

The Hayfield, Ford Madox Brown


tate b3

Battersea Reach, Walter Greaves


tate b1

Top – Vollendam Holland, Elizabeth Forbes

Bottom – Mounts Bay, Norman Garstin


Captain Lee’s feet, Tate Britain

This very strange portrait – it always looks to me as if Lee is in one of those dreams where you’ve forgotten to put your trousers on – is actually a portrait of the whole man, not just his legs and feet.  But I happened to notice that the feet, or rather the toes, are rendered as if copied from a photograph.  They’re very long.  The feet, however. are small – too small, I think.

tate b2

Captain Lee, Geerhaerts


Imperial War Museum

Some “new” paintings at the museum; Ceri Richards, the great Leonard Rosoman, Ravilious; there’s a roomful of Peter Kennard’s collaged anti- missile missile posters and paintings. The most striking work, however, is Bruce McLean’s “Broadside”.  It’s the sinking of the Sheffield, I think – but I just like the colours, unreformed abstractionist that I am.

(c) Bruce McLean; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, by Viv Albertine

Last week, I was writing about “Hard to be A God”, the Russian film which is mostly shot in extreme close-up, making it difficult to get context.  Albertine’s book is similar in this respect; it’s episodic and written in present tense throughout, which must be hard to do, because you have to be thinking as you though then. So it often comes across as naive, portentous, and volatile- but it’s also really gripping.  I stormed through it and enjoyed it greatly.  She’s very candid, spends pages saying how shy and self-conscious and lacking in confidence she is – and then reveals things that you can’t imagine yourself doing.  Very brave and not ghosted, like lots of other music bios.  Halfway through a brutal attack by a lover, in which he has her on he knees, with her face pressed to the floor, she tells us she is wearing “a stripy blue-and -white sailor-style Sonia Rykiel cardigan with an appliqued red silk heart on it, knee-length red linen skirt cut on the bias…”; that’s devotion to fashion.

Two other reasons I liked it – Albertine featured in the brilliant Joanna Hogg’s last film “The Exhibition” and was great (as was Liam Gillick, who gets a bit of a rough ride in the book) – and she re-bought the Island sampler “Nice Enough to Eat” second hand – as did I, and very good it is too.

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